Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of Labour-run Cambridge City Council, has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel calling on the Government to extend by a year the 30th of June 2021 deadline for applications by Cambridge residents who are EU citizens to the EU Settlement Scheme. Under the Government’s EU Settlement Scheme, if non-UK EU citizens do not make an application for settled or pre-settled status by 30th June 2021, they may become unlawfully resident in the UK, putting their jobs, housing, and access to services at risk.
Many of the organisations working to support EU citizen residents to apply for settled status, including those funded by the Government, have been limited for many months in terms of their capacity and the type of outreach they can do as a result of the pandemic. Many Cambridge residents, both EU and UK, are also temporarily not at their usual Cambridge address due to the pandemic, adding to problems of submitting accurate paperwork.
These unavoidable changes will most affect vulnerable groups – including older people, those who are digitally excluded, need English language support to complete their application, or have complex gases.
This is why Cllr Herbert is asking Priti Patel and Kevin Foster, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Future Borders and Immigration, to extend both the deadline and the financial support from Government to outreach organisations for a full year from June 2021 to June 2022. He has written to the Government also urging them to make sure that the option of physical proof – rather than online – is available to those who have pre-settled and settled status, as recommended by EU citizens’ rights organisation the3million and other migrants’ rights charities in the UK.
Lack of a written record led to a significant number of victims of the Windrush scandal being persecuted by the UK Home Office.
Physical documents offer residents a crucial level of security in their legal status that cannot be provided by digital status alone. This is particularly true for people in more precarious or short-term accommodation or employment, or people who are digitally excluded and will be unable to view and prove their status online.
Cllr Herbert said;
“Too many of our Cambridge residents who are EU nationals have suffered major blockages and delays trying to sort out their Settled Status during the last year because of the pandemic.
They now need and deserve a year’s extension to the rapidly advancing and totally unfair June 2021 cut-off so that they can submit proper status applications to the UK Home Office. The situation over the past 12 months of the pandemic has meant that many people simply haven’t had proper opportunity or time to sort out issues like this, particularly where they have been unable to access advice services due to repeated lockdowns.
Many Cambridge residents are also temporarily out of the city for all sorts of valid personal or job reasons, as we fear will be confirmed by the Census when early data becomes available in May. That includes potentially hundreds of our EU citizens who have had temporarily to relocate for work or to return to look after family in their country of origin.
They totally deserve an extension and the legal right to return to Cambridge with settled status. Only extending this harsh deadline will ensure them that right.”
Government figures show that 25,930 applications were made to the EU Settlement Scheme from Cambridge by the end of December 2020. Cambridge City Council has also included a leaflet with the council tax bills that will shortly be going out across the city with information on the EU Settlement Scheme, reminding all EU citizens of their eligibility to vote in the upcoming local elections on May 6, and encouraging them to register by the deadline of 19 April.
Alexandra Bulat, who is standing for election in Abbey Ward and would, if successful, become the first Romanian local councillor in the UK, explained the importance of extending the deadline;
“I have been working with Cambridge City Council on reaching out to EU citizens before the pandemic started. Seeing this good work at the local level on EU citizens’ outreach has also inspired me to stand as a candidate as an EU citizen in the 2021 elections.
As a volunteer immigration adviser, I cannot be positive that the Government can inform all EU citizens on time before the application deadline. There is a context behind application numbers and it is clear for someone working on the ground that there are still EU citizens who are yet to apply, and many who experience delays and difficulties as a result of the pandemic.
I welcome the calls made by the Council to the Government and hope that common sense will prevail on issues such as late applications, physical documents, and extended outreach support for EU citizens in our communities.”